Lizzie Williams (Vanderkitten) made her bold solo move with six laps to go out of the 14-lap circuit and held her lead to win the Stillwater Criterium.
Behind her was the battle for the general classification. Leah Kirchmann (Team Optum) and Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare) were both 14 seconds behind Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) coming into the stage. Powers attacked in the final lap, nearly closing down the gap to Williams, and finished second on the stage but it was not enough to put her in the overall lead. Small finished two seconds behind Powers for third on the stage, and Kirchmann finished a 12 seconds behind Small for fourth on the stage.
Attacks from UnitedHealthcare, Team Optum, and Team TIBCO came from the start, with the lap pace quickening as the attacks and counter attacks grew more frenetic.
UnitedHealthcare was determined to make the other teams chase. Lauren Tamayo, Rushlee Buchanan, and Sharon Laws saw solo breakaways. Buchanon’s breakaway lasted two laps before being brought back, while Laws was away for one lap on her own before being joined by Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) when Wiles attacked up Chilkoot Hill, with its average 18% grade, to claim Queen of the Mountains points ahead of Laws.
It was this duo that Williams bridged up to before launching her solo attack. “In my head I wanted to go at four laps to go,” said Williams. “That break went away and I bridged across, it was just a split second that they eased up, and I just kept going. I got a gap so it was just like a tempo ride, a time trial. The crowd just helped me along so much each time I went up the hill.”
While Williams was up the road, a small group of five containing Laws, Ally Stacher (Specialized-lululemon), Jade Wilcoxson (Team Optum), Jo Kiesanowski (Team TIBCO), and Flavia Oliveira (FCS|Zngine p/b Mr. Restore) were on the chase.
With three laps to go Williams had opened up a gap of over 40 seconds. “I honestly didn’t know that Lizzie was up the road,” laughed Powers. “I stuck to out team’s plan, and I heard someone say ‘42 seconds’. What? Someone’s up the road?”
That’s when a chase ensued that quickly brought down the time gap as both Specialized-lululemon and Team Optum strung out what was left of the fewer than 20 riders left on course. With just under two laps to go Kirchmann made her move for the general classification. She and teammate Denise Ramsden headed up Chilkoot Hill with a slight advantage over the group containing Small and Powers. The duo were caught by the top of the hill.
Powers launched her attack after the top of Chilkoot Hill. “With just under one to go, I could see Tayler was fading a bit, and so that’s when I attacked,” said Powers. “Unfortunately Carmen was just a little too strong. I couldn’t get away from her on the last lap, so kudos to her and her team. My entire team gave everything they had, every single person. We tried, we didn’t quite get it, but it was a good team effort.
”We wanted to either win or go down trying.“
”They did a really good job of attacking me in the last two laps,“ said Small. ”I wanted to die a thousand deaths, just hold on for dear life. I’m really lucky the girls are so great because I couldn’t have won this race without them. Especially going against UnitedHealthcare and Optum, they both have really strong girls. The girls rode out of their minds today.“
Kelly Catlin (Kakookies Collegiate All-Stars) was the day’s top placed amateur and the only amateur who finished the race without receiving a pro-rated time, extending her lead in the amateur jersey to over 17 minutes. The Collegiate All Stars program is designed to give riders a well rounded experience of what it’s like to be on a professional team, from providing technical and physical support in the form of mechanics and a masseuse, to skills development and encouragement.
”Stillwater was a lot of fun,“ said Catlin, who has a double major in bio-mechanical engineering and Chinese with a minor in music at the University of Minnesota. ”It was a really good experience to measure up against the pros. I feel a little more confident now. I feel like if I wanted to go pro I could possibly do it. I’ll try to manage with collegiate cycling for the first few years and see how that goes it goes from there.“
The North Star Grand Prix features the Carla Swart jersey, a jersey of recognition given to the rider who sacrifices the most for her team as voted on by other members of the peloton. This year’s jersey recipient was Joy McCulloch (KHS-Maxxis p/b JAKROO). According to several riders, Joy ”did not care about her time and was worried about the rider on the ground after the crash we were involved in on Friday night. She raced well and fought strong. She represents this sport at it’s highest level.“
Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) had her Xcel Energy Sprint Competition Jersey on lock, coming into stage 6 with enough points to keep her lead even if she didn’t gain any more sprint points. Wiles secured her Jelly Belly Queen of the Mountains by collecting an additional eight points on the stage. The Penn Cycle’s Most Aggressive Rider jersey was given to Williams for her impressive solo ride.